Interest in content marketing continues to grow. According to Google the topic has been trending upwards worldwide since 2012. On the surface, getting started is relatively easy. Brands can quickly and easily publish content on their website, blog, social channels or using a host of other publishing environments. Measurement of the relative performance of different themes, formats and channels can be simply undertaken with basic understanding of analytics tools.
However it’s worth investing in robust analysis of audience and market data in order to reveal the scale of the opportunity, competitive threats and to provide clear guidance regarding the relative importance of different themes aligned with a brand’s proposition and marketing calendar. Without this approach content is unlikely to be as focussed or deliver the best possible outcomes.
Why Have Brands Adopted Content Marketing?
Many companies and brands have adopted content marketing in some shape or form attracted by the ability to undertake authentic, brand storytelling. It provides a way for marketers to expand beyond the brevity of most advertising formats and the transience of social media content. Furthermore, for businesses with complex products or services which are often explained in detailed white papers, content marketing provides a way to repackage such detail in a more palatable and accessible manner.
What do we Mean by ‘Content Marketing’?
If advertising and many social posts are lightweight in the depth of their message, and white papers or market reports are heavyweight, some have come to refer to ‘content marketing’ as occupying the middleweight space. In other words it has satisfying depth and value to the audience, but it remains accessible and doesn’t demand a huge commitment of time to be enjoyed.
The ‘Hero, Hub, Hygiene’ Model
The ‘Hero, Hub, Hygiene (or Help)’ model is a content marketing model originally devised by Google to advise YouTube publishers regarding their video content, but the approach can be applied to all forms of content marketing. Whilst there can be overlap between the three types, they remain a helpful way to categorise content according to its purpose in the relationship between the brand and its audience.
It has become commonplace to refer to ‘Hero, Hub, Hygiene (or Help)’ in this order and diagrammatically represent this as a three-layered pyramid with ‘Hygiene’ at the base, ‘Hub’ in the middle and ‘Hero,’ at the top.
The allusion of the physical structure is a helpful way to remember that a successful content marketing programme needs to be built upon the sound foundations of great hygiene content.
Hygiene (or Help) content is not the most exciting content to create but its enormous importance is often overlooked. Hygiene content is the rational advice that guides customers through their decision-making process. Importantly it’s the content they are searching for. If your brand can provide authoritative answers to their problems or queries, this is a big win on the path to sales conversion. Many marketers under-invest here to focus on more exciting, creative pieces of content, but hygiene content aims to knock down any barriers to conversion, for example by providing answers to frequently asked questions. Well executed hygiene content can carry enormous SEO value, with the potential to provide a sizeable pipeline of organic traffic to your website. Hygiene content is largely ‘evergreen’, so the great news is that after the initial investment, much of this will remain unchanged, only occasionally being updated in line updates to your offering or in response to significant changes in market.
Hub content is your content publishing heartbeat, aiming to generate brand awareness and increase engagement with your audiences. In contrast to hygiene content, hub content will be more topical, aligned to your marketing calendar or seasonal audience needs. This will help inspire your audience further and get them thinking beyond the immediate problem they need to solve. Where hygiene content is very functional: providing rational answers to immediate questions, hub content seeks to build an emotional connection.
This inspirational content will open the audience’s mind to new possibilities and demonstrate brand values aligned with the things your audience cares most about.
Hero content is created as your occasional, big tent pole moments or campaigns that are designed to increase brand awareness, engagement and impact. If hub content is like a series of bonfires, hero content is the firework display. It’s the ‘wow content’ that confidently represents what your brand stands for and provides differentiation from competitors in your market.
The Role of Each
The three types of content work seamlessly together with different roles to play. Hero content pours a large volume of prospects into the top of the purchase funnel in large bursts of activity. Hub content is more akin to CRM activity, albeit it may feature across a number of different touchpoints in the digital ecosystem – and can be made to work harder with the selective paid media support. Whilst Hygiene is like your audience oracle – able to answer all practical questions; with the dual purpose of driving conversion and winning organic traffic to your website.
Measuring Success and Attribution
Due to the different purpose of different content types and their collective role in attracting and converting customers one should not judge each piece of content in isolation. Instead one should explore analytics to examine and learn from user journeys on the path to conversion. This will help reveal the contributing effect of different content and channels. Furthermore multi touch attribution tools can be used to track behaviour more holistically across different channels and audience touch points, which can also extend to physical stores.
The Right Digital Ecosystem
Having the right content alone is not enough to maximise success. The right marketing technology, in terms of website or blog needs to be configured in line with SEO best practice. Furthermore consideration needs to be paid to the holistic digital ecosystem, content formats and publishing process in order to best engage and move the audience between different channels and touchpoints. Finally, a robust analytics platform and process will help deliver insights from an ongoing Test & Learn approach.
It’s easy to publish content, but planning and running successful content marketing programmes requires the right content, the right environment and the right measurement and optimisation tools and methods in place. Successful content needs to be defined based on robust audience and market data in order to respond to prevalent opportunities and threats. Such an approach empowers brands to invest in the right content and effectively forecast the anticipated business impact.